Jack Johnson was nicknamed the Galveston Giant and was an American boxer….who, at the height of the Jim Crow era in America, became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion in 1908….and held the title until 1915. Among the period’s most dominant champions, Johnson remains a boxing legend, with his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries dubbed the “fight of the century”. According to filmmaker Ken Burns, “for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth”….kinda the Muhammad Ali of the early 20th century….who like Ali….transcended boxing by becoming part of the culture and the history of racism in America.
In 1912, Johnson opened a successful and luxurious “black and tan” desegregated restaurant and nightclub….which in part was run by his wife, a white woman. Major newspapers of the time soon claimed that Johnson was attacked by the government only after he became famous as a black man married to a white woman….while being linked to other white women. Johnson was arrested on charges of violating the Mann Act….which forbid one to transport a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes”….which was a racially motivated charge that embroiled him in controversy for his relationships, including marriages, with white women….who was charged, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison….so, Johnson fled the country and fought boxing matches abroad for 7 years until 1920….when he served his sentence at the federal penitentiary at Levenworth, Kansas. Johnson was posthumously pardoned by President Donald Trump in May 2018, 105 years after his conviction.
Johnson continued taking paying fights for many years….while operating several other businesses including lucrative endorsement deals. Johnson died in a car crash on June 10, 1946, at the age of 68. He is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.
We at ImaSportsphile are blessed to have this HBO documentary regarding the life of one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time…..who deserves to be considered with the very best ever. Jack Johnson was bigger than life….and one mighty tough guy from the wharfs of Galveston and the 12th Ward, known as a really rough neighborhood….who went on to become an hero all around the world.